watercolor techniques like lifting color can be seen on this painting

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Do you have a favorite watercolor paper? I’ve had several, and lately, I love Strathmore Plate Finish Bristol paper.

The surface is hot pressed, and sized, so it’s slippery-smooth, and luminous under the pigments, and it’s perfect for lifting watercolor.

When I paint at art festivals, watercolor artists strolling the shows frequently ask about the paper I’m using, and they usually reply that they’ve never heard of bristol plate finish.  

When I ask what they use if they want the option to lift color, the unanimous answer is that they just don’t.

Well, I make lots o’ mistakes, kids, so I Do. Lift. Often. #powerlifter  Plus, I like to lighten & “bling” parts here and there as a last step in the painting.

painting a watercolor of sunlit glass reflections on a kitchen counter
Shadow Parade in process: lifting watercolor to add highlights

Selecting Watercolor Paper

Paper selection has a huge impact on all art-making; drawing, watercolor painting, and printmaking, etc.  

The materials you choose (EX: for drawing – if you use pencil, vs conte crayon, vs charcoal) will attach to and release from each type of drawing paper with so much variation.

It’s worth the time to do a little testing to find the surface that works best for your style.

So, in watercolor, beyond the differences in each manufacturer’s pulp recipe, there’s cold press, hot press, rough, plate finish, weight, sized or unsized, hand or machine made, etc. Which ones have you tried? (Here’s a Primer on Watercolor Paper if you need a free download.)

Testing swatches of four different watercolor papers for saturation, mixing, blending and lifting color

Hot Press Watercolor Papers

I’ve posted a video (below) to demonstrate why I love plate finish and hot pressed watercolor papers, and how they differ from cold press and rough watercolor papers. If you don’t see the video window below, you can watch the clip on my youtube channel here.

Test Your Papers

If you have a pile of watercolor papers, cut a sample strip from each one (like I’ve done above), label the back in pencil so you’ll know which paper is which, and do some watercolor swatch tests.

Try mixing color, painting wet-into-wet, glazing and lifting. This alone will teach you so much about the papers in your arsenal.

Finding the paper that suits your watercolor painting style best could be just the breakthrough you need to continue your painting practice. And the testing process is fun. There’s no way to mess up, so just play with your paint on all of your different papers.

Thanks for stopping by and I’ll see you in the next post –


Art Quote

You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.

Maya Angelou
Shadow Parade 10×7 Watercolor (sold)

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10 thoughts on “A Video demo on How to Lift Watercolor”

  1. Long ago I struggled with watercolors and the inability to modify what was on the paper…so haven’t touched them for a really long time. Stayed with oils and acrylics. After watching this video I want to revisit watercolors with the Strathmore Plate Finish Bristole paper. Thank you!

  2. Mary Ellen Gale

    Great information! I’ve always been told to use cold press but never knew what the differences were. Between this and the link to Anna a few days back, It’s been a week of growth!

      1. Mary Ellen Gale

        Yes, italy in the fall. But actually I’ve taken to getting out some old schoolwork paintings I did of Greece that never looked finished to me (because they probably weren’t !). And adding more glazes. The shadows weren’t developed and there are no mid tones in the paintings at all. So fun!

  3. This was definitely a moment of enlightenment for me, a hopelessly discouraged watercolor user. Does the plate-finished paper need to be stretched? Buckling paper (even when stretched) has also compounded my frustration – always seemed a hit and miss endeavor. Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Gayle, I hope you dive in and give it another try. It’s such a beautiful medium. Im biased, I know, but really, it’s lovely. 🙂 And yes, you should secure it to a board, but not wet. Just tape it down dry, and go easy with the water in your pigments. It’ll buckle some if you use a lighter weight paper, but as it dries, it should flatten out. For your best bet, use a 3 or 4 ply paper. Good luck!

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